DayBreaks for 5/15/20 – The Problem with Legalism


DayBreaks for 5/15/20: The Problem with Legalism

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2010:

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes many shocking statements that take our breath away.  For example, he equates hatred/anger with murder and lust with adultery.  Those are not messages that we like to hear, because we’ve been guilty of both hatred and lust if we will be honest enough to admit it.  But he just keeps spinning such statements off non-stop.  And, he finally tops them all when he says, “Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  Ah, thanks for that one, Jesus…that one’s simple (NOT!)”

Many who heard him that day were the Pharisees and scribes who were always spying on him, trying to learn more about him and his movement – not so they could join in worshipping him – but so they could put an end to it.  The Pharisees and scribes seemed to have a competition going between the two groups to see who could be the most holy.  They REALLY took holiness seriously!  They committed themselves to keeping the Law, to obedience.  They documented every law (613 according to them, with 248 commands, 365 prohibitions and 1521 “flavors”), wrote dissertations on the nuances of each one.  Why?  Because they wanted to be sure that they knew what the Law required so they could obey it and not break it in any way.  They were fanatical about holiness…even if they were misguided and proud of their fanaticism. 

And, in a crowd surrounded by such people, Jesus makes his bold statement: “Be perfect, even as you Father in heaven is perfect.”  Most of us would say that is not possible – in fact, we’d say it was impossible.  But the Pharisees and scribes would have loved it. 

The problem should be clear.  The problem isn’t that the Pharisees and scribes were fanatical about holiness with all their definition of the Law and what it meant and required.  The problem is that they were not fanatical enough.  They needed to reach a state of perfection in their legalism (both in terms of what the Law really meant and taught) and in their obedience to it.  In short, they could never be legalistic enough if they wanted to be saved that way.  They just didn’t want to admit it.

Those who insist on legalistic formulas for salvation today are just as misguided – and just as confused.  Anyone who says, “If you can’t obey better than that, you’ll never get to heaven” has totally missed the point.  Is obedience important?  Sure…but it is not the mechanism of salvation – never has been, never will be.  Want to disagree with me?  Let me ask a simple question: if obedience is that important to salvation, how many times can a person be disobedient before they are doomed?  100?  1000?  10,000?  If there were a number, Jesus would have told it to us and we’d be able to keep track.  But another part of the problem is that sometimes we sin without being aware of it: I offend through some careless words, I fail to give thanks when I should, I set up an idol in my heart that I’m not even aware of as an idol.  Legalists are fond of saying that one unforgiven sin is enough to send a person to hell.  And I’d agree with that.  The key has to do with the forgiveness of Jesus and God’s grace.  Jesus paid the price on the cross for every single one of my sins – past, present and future.  That’s why Paul could say that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t have to go back to the cross and die again each time I sin for the simple reason that he paid the price, “once and for all” for sin.  My salvation is not based on any level of obedience, but on my acceptance, by faith, of the all-sufficiency of the sacrifice of Jesus.

The motive for obedience is to please God and be a blessing to others.  It is not for salvation – or we are all doomed because we can never be legalistic enough in our obedience to achieve it. 

PRAYER: Lord, we want to honor you with our obedience, but help us understand that we will never be good enough, wise enough, obedient enough, to be saved unless we are perfect like the Father is perfect.  Thank you, Jesus, for applying your perfect holiness to us through your blood! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 8/31/18 – When Paul Got It Wrong

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DayBreaks for 8/31/18: When Paul Got It Wrong

First, let me say that I have the utmost respect for the apostle Paul. It is quite possible that more people will be in heaven because of his work than any other mere mortal who has ever lived. But that doesn’t mean he was perfect. In fact, I have found one place in Scripture where I’m convinced that Paul got it dead wrong. It’s here in 1 Timothy 1:15 (CSBBible) – This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” — and I am the worst of them.

Paul was right about why Jesus came, but Paul couldn’t possibly have been the worst of sinners because I am. Here I am, 66 years old, still struggling with sin! The things that should have died in my long ago are still struggles and it seems they shouldn’t be alive and kicking, not now, not this far along in the journey. What is wrong with me!?!? Why am I this way???

I am this way, I reckon, because I still carry about with me a fleshly body and a human nature that are by definition corrupt. There is nothing, we are told, that is within us and our earthly composition that is anything other than dead – and the dead smell bad, just like my sin smells bad – even and especially to me. 

My guess is that unless you are a total neophyte to the concept of sin that you either feel like I do or have felt this way when the enormity of your own sin sits on your shoulders like a great, immense anchor. And that, my friends, is depressing, isn’t it?

We would do ourselves a disservice if we stopped reading at verse 15, though, for Paul goes on to say this: But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life.

What do I do when my sin and struggles are crushing my spirit with shame, and when our enemy is tormenting me with guilt? I remind myself of verse 16, and of this verse (Rom. 8:1-2) – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.

God sees my sin. He doesn’t like it but he doesn’t hate me for it – it just breaks his heart. But when I launch out into eternity, having trusted myself and my eternal destiny to the hands of Jesus, I shall not be disappointed, I shall not be put to shame, for I, even now, bear my great guilt no longer. I face no condemnation because Christ faced it for me, and for you. Glory be to God!

PRAYER: Lord, have mercy on me a sinner! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 6/11/18 – Hearing Voices

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DayBreaks for 6/11/18: Hearing Voices

When I was a pastor, I spent many hours talking with church members who were wrestling with what one might call, “voices of condemnation.” They weren’t hearing literal voices, but as I listened to them, I could see how their lives, in many cases, had been negatively influenced by things said, taught, or even preached to them. There are many such scenarios:

  • Someone “raised” in a home, in which they perceived what they did was never good enough;
  • Someone “raised” in a church, to which they were taught acceptance before God was about “performance”;
  • Someone feeling judged because they were from a different race or ethnicity;
  • Someone wondering if God was judging them, because they were undergoing some suffering;
  • Someone struggling to read the Bible or pray because of some inner turmoil;
  • Someone wondering if God had abandoned them.

I’d love to think that coming to faith in Christ means we no longer have to battle “voices” like these, that once you’re a believer, you no longer have to carry around that “baggage”. However, it’s just not true. All of us, to varying degrees, have that “baggage” or “voices” we have to deal with. It’s a part of living in this broken world.

Yet, we have God’s Word. We have the Spirit of Christ within us. We have Romans 8. I love Romans 8, because it boldly declares there is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. (8.1) I love Romans 8, because it says we have been set free from the law of sing and death (8.2). I love Romans 8, because it proclaims we have received the Spirit of adoption as sons. (8.14) I love Romans 8, because it says the sufferings of this world are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (8.18) I love Romans 8, because it tells us the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (8.26) Lastly, I love Romans 8, because nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (8.39)

Are you hearing the old voices still? Read Romans 8 over and over and over again until you hear the voice of God. You can trust Romans 8…after all, they are the inspired words of God.

PRAYER: Lord, give us ears to hear your voice, and your voice alone! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/13/17 – Neither Do I Condemn You

DayBreaks for 2/13/17: Neither Do I Condemn You

Most readers of DayBreaks are familiar with the story from John 7:53 – 8:11 about the encounter of Jesus with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. But, in case you’re not, the scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus. They wanted Jesus to stone her. Jesus’ reply no doubt took them back a bit: Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. Because of Jesus’ comment, the religious leaders backed off and went away. When you read the story, it is clear that the religious zealots rejected this women and were quick to condemn her. So, what would Jesus do? How will he handle this ticklish situation? Since Jesus knew that her accusers had no right to condemn her (because of their own sins), Jesus turned his attention to the woman after her accusers had left and said five words that must have put her at great ease: Neither do I condemn you.

As a former pastor, I can’t start to tell you how many people I’ve talked with over the years who felt condemned by God. They believed He had turned his back on them because of something they’d done or not done, and the words, “neither do I condemn you” are as foreign to them as someone speaking Martian. Why? Because their view of Christianity is that if you “perform” right, God is for you, and if you don’t, you’re on his “bad” list and you’d better now walk outside for fear of being hit with a lightning bolt.

Think about the story for a minute. Did the woman deserve forgiveness? No. Did she deserve justice? Yes. Did she come groveling to Jesus begging mercy? No! But she found it anyway because that’s what Jesus longs to give to us all. 

Of course, the question will always be raised: “Does this mean we can we can do whatever we want? No, because Jesus followed up his statement to her with “Go and sin no more.” But that doesn’t in any way diminish he extravagant statement of grace and mercy.

Perhaps you are in need of hearing both of those statements from Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you – go, and sin no more.”

Then, when you do sin, as you inevitably will, hold on this promise: 1 John 1:9-10 (ESV): If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Perhaps today you need to hear the voice of Jesus saying, Neither do I condemn you. Why? Romans 8:1 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Do you belong to Jesus? If you do, there is no condemnation and he does not condemn you. Rest in that knowledge!

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for this story in Scripture and the hope that it offers to each one of us who need to know that you do not condemn us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.